Assuming the Original Position

Say what you want about John Rawls, but he doesn’t deserve to be invoked by Alan Dershowitz in defense of Donald Trump–on the floor of the U.S. Senate, no less. And yet here we are.

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.

Curious what Trump or Dershowitz think of that one, or if they have any idea what it means.


Dershowitz on Rawls at 3:23:30:

https://www.wgbh.org/news/politics/2020/01/27/watch-live-trumps-impeachment-trial-resumes

War with Iran (18): Dialogue of the Deaf

You’ve probably seen that meme of the couple in bed, where the woman suspects that the guy is thinking of other women, and the guy is lying there thinking about video games or whatever. That meme is a perfect encapsulation of the communicative relationship between Iran and the American people. The Iranians are trying to tell us, “Hey, our proxies have hit your embassy after weeks of trying!” And we’re sitting there, fixated on Kobe Bryant. The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad took place last night, but wasn’t reported in The New York Times until 5:15 this morning. I mostly read about it in obscure foreign outlets. A helicopter crash that kills a former basketball star is a breaking story, but a direct missile attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad isn’t. Priorities.  Continue reading

War with Iran (17): Fool in the Rain

Last night, I wrote this paean to Code Pink, in anticipation of an anti-war demonstration that was supposed to take place today at noon in Hinds Plaza in Princeton, New Jersey. I regard Medea Benjamin, the founder of Code Pink, as one of the great heroes of the twenty-first century.

Code Pink’s opposition to our government’s wars has been more consistent than any of the rationalizations the government has offered in defense of them. If you’re in Princeton on the 25th, and oppose war, consider standing with us (in the rain) at Hinds Plaza. Voting isn’t enough if your vote is just a vote for war. Our representatives need to know loudly and unmistakably that it isn’t. (But yeah, bring an umbrella.)

It was, to be sure, a chilly day with a pouring rain. So I drove down to Princeton, parked my car, walked over to Hinds Plaza, and encountered this scene… Continue reading

Auschwitz: Some Reminders

This Monday, January 27, marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. We’re constantly being enjoined “never to forget” the significance of this day. Just to remind you of what actually happened on January 27, 1945: the Red Army defeated the Wehrmacht, wresting Auschwitz from the Nazis, liberating its inmates in one sense, and “liberating” Poland in a somewhat different one. Recall that it was the Soviet government that, in league with the Nazis, carved up and invaded Poland to start the war in the first place. Had they not done so, there might never have been an Auschwitz. And recall that we then spent the Cold War fighting the government of this same Red Army, which arguably went on to instigate the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and commit genocide in Afghanistan. Continue reading

War with Iran (16): The Headaches of War

In episode 13 of this series–and “episode” is the only word for a war that resembles a reality TV show–I pointed out that the Trump Administration misstated the number of casualties suffered by American troops in the recent Iranian attack on Iraqi military bases where those troops are stationed. Trump had originally said there were no casualties, but at that point, it was reported that 11 soldiers had been evacuated for injuries suffered in the attacks. But it gets better. Now the number evacuated is starting to rise. From 11, it’s become “about a dozen.” One report puts the number in the “teens.” So what’s the explanation for the discrepancy–that the Pentagon is hiding the truth from us, or that it can’t count? Continue reading

War with Iran (15): From the Annals of American Military Invincibility

So this isn’t a story specifically about Iran, but close enough:

WASHINGTON — Armed with rifles and explosives, about a dozen Shabab fighters destroyed an American surveillance plane as it was taking off and ignited an hours long gunfight earlier this month on a sprawling military base in Kenya that houses United States troops. By the time the Shabab were done, portions of the airfield were burning and three Americans were dead.

Surprised by the attack, American commandos took around an hour to respond. Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass while other American troops and support staff were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle. It would require hours to evacuate one of the wounded to a military hospital in Djibouti, roughly 1,500 miles away.

The brazen assault at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, on Jan. 5, was largely overshadowed by the crisis with Iran after the killing of that country’s most important general two days earlier, and is only now drawing closer scrutiny from Congress and Pentagon officials.

What scrutiny? Continue reading

Colleagues, Tramps, and Thieves

A colleague of mine went to India over Christmas break, and gifted me a box of Indian sweets–laddu, barfi, and the like. I gluttonously consumed two-thirds of the box a few minutes after receiving the gift. I then put the box in the fridge of our faculty lounge, thinking I’d eat the rest the next day. I open the fridge just now, and it’s gone. And no, it can’t be a mistake. So yeah, it was stolen–as in theft, larceny, crime. It was in a distinctive gift box, and was virtually the only thing in the fridge. And it had to have been stolen by a faculty member, because the door to the lounge has a combination lock known (or presumably known) only to faculty. I guess Maintenance has access as well, but I simply don’t believe Maintenance would do something like this.

What manner of depravity is this? What kind of colleagues would steal a gift out of the faculty lounge–at a Franciscan school? Is nothing sacred?

The Girl Who Did Her Cause No Favors

I almost feel guilty saying this, but as yet, I have no strong view on climate change. I more or less defer to expert opinion on the subject, which as I understand it holds that the planet is on fire, that it’s our fault, and in consequence that we should shop less and recycle more. At least half of that message is music to my ears: I find shopping a bore, and often think the planet deserves to be burned down. The other half I find unobjectionable: it wouldn’t surprise me if the planet’s demise were our fault (given my estimation of the people who inhabit it), and at this point, I’ve been married often enough to have internalized recycling. So I’m down with the whole climate change agenda.

I’m less down with Greta Thunberg, whom I find problematic. Or rather, not with Greta the person, but Greta the media phenomenon. Unlike many of Greta’s critics (and yes, I’m going to call her that), I don’t dislike Greta the person. I like her. Not only do I like her, but I like the very things about her that her critics so intensely dislike. She’s a hectoring, fanatical, self-righteous prig. A kindred spirit, in short. Continue reading

War with Iran (14): When Proxy Wars Attack

In an earlier post, I insisted that “our” war with Iran was not yet over. And it isn’t. You may have forgotten all about the war we started with them. But rest assured, they haven’t.

Exhibit A: Saturday’s missile attack on a government military base in Yemen. The New York Times, a bit behind the times in this case, lists the casualties as rising “to at least 76.” That was yesterday. Seven hours ago, it was 111. I’m guessing it’ll go up. Continue reading

MLK: “Believe Women,” Rape, and the Worst-Case Scenario

Yesterday, I wrote a post arguing that the supposedly woke slogan “Believe Women” has some odd implications for the recent Sanders-Warren controversy. It implies that we should believe Elizabeth Warren’s accusation that Sanders is a sexist, or at least presume his guilt until he can conclusively prove his innocence. Because I take this consequence to be a reductio, I take “Believe Women” to be an absurdity. Put charitably, the original, unqualified version of the slogan has to be modified. Put uncharitably, it has to be rejected. To split the difference, it requires a bit of both. Continue reading